CHARACTER is the latest buzzword in schools across the country. New government guidelines mean pupils should not only be taught maths and English but skills such as resilience, courage and compassion.
Commando Joe’s believes it has got just the people to lead those lessons – its team of military veterans who have been retrained for new careers in the classroom.
“Who is better qualified to teach character-building than veterans?” said founder Mike Hamilton, a former corporal in the Royal Engineers. “I know our team of 50 instructors have had their strength of character tested to the limit in demanding situations.
“Now they are passing on those skills of self-discipline and perseverance in schools.”
Mike created Commando Joe’s in 2009 after leaving the Army and working in school outreach teams where he saw the demand from teachers for somebody to share life skills like those learned in the Forces.
Initially focusing on fitness, it has evolved into an all-round education company working in more than 300 primary and secondary schools, including those with Service children.
Instructors provide one-to-one mentoring, teach team-building classes and stand at the school gate to discourage absenteeism. Its results have won the company more than £3 million in Department for Education grants.
This year it is launching a new character-building scheme, with lessons based on challenges faced by great British explorers such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
Results are being seen by schools from Cornwall to Cumbria. A report by Swansea University found schools enlisting Commando Joe’s instructors saw a boost in attendance, grades and behaviour.
Head teacher Chris Redman, of Rosehill Methodist Community Primary School in Tameside, has seen real benefits.
“We called in Commando Joe’s for a positive role model – we wanted to encourage team-building, self-respect and self-esteem,” she said.
“Our instructor is part of the whole school team – he does breakfast club, works in the classroom and even gets parents involved in a wake-and-shake.
“I have definitely seen improvements. It is about developing the confidence to have a go and to take on challenges.”
Year five pupil Ebony Garth agreed that her class has learned new skills.
“Commando Joe’s gives us confidence and teaches us how to work as a team,” she said. “It’s hard work but it’s fun at the same time!”